Make no mistake about it, Joe Carnahan's Smokin' Aces will, no doubt, be savaged by a lot of critics. It's a loud, messy, explosive, twisted action flick with little-to-no redeeming values. Fortunately, it's also a lot of fun…CLICK THIS LINK TO SUBSCRIBE TO EMTV, OUR iTUNES VIDEO PODCAST!!
When I saw the trailer for Smokin' Aces, last year, I was mesmerized. It was wall-to-wall action – kinetic energy compressed into a small a container as possible, so that when it exploded, it became an irresistible force. I vowed that I would see any movie that could have such a purely entertaining trailer. Does Smokin' Aces live up to its trailer? Not quite – but I doubt any movie could have lived up to that trailer. It does come pretty close, though…
The set-up is as simple as it gets: a mob informer [legendary showman Buddy "Smokin'" Aces] is about to rat on what remains of the American Cost Nostra, and crime boss has put out a one million contract on him. Word leaks out about this big payday and soon every freelance contractor out there is headed for Lake Tahoe, where Buddy is holed up in a penthouse suite with a coterie of bodyguards and hookers.
The huge cast includes Jeremy Piven [Buddy], Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds and the proverbial many, many more. The plot arcs that involve each of their characters are developed separately come together in a gigantic blowout over the film's third act.
Frankly, I can't begin to describe the chaos that's set up in the first act. You have word leaking out about the contract, and meet all the players [handily identified by onscreen graphics, a la Guy Ritchie] – the bounty hunters [Affleck, Peter Berg and Martin Henderson]; skinhead racists, the Tremor Brothers [Chris Pine, Kevin Durand and Maury Sterling]; the black women, Sharice [Taraji P. Henson] and Georgia [Keys], and more.
There's nothing particularly subtle about Smokin' Aces – a huge twist is given away really early, but it's just a beard for a sweeter twist that pops up in the last five minutes. What is impressive about the film is the way Carnahan [who wrote and directed] juggles his multiple character arcs. He may not be another Tarantino, but he does move his story along with deft camera moves and frequently unexpected cuts. His cast is fully aware that this is little more than a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions and provides him with a series of gleeful performances that give a further edge to the proceedings.
If you like movies where things get "blowed up real good" or the phrase "we need bigger guns" was part of their spine, then you will enjoy Smokin' Aces. This is a film that can be described as lunatic carnage. It has a peculiar energy of its own that differentiates it from other multi-arced movies – a kind of super-manic edge that just spews adrenaline throughout the theater. This is possibly the ultimate "boys and their toys" movie – at least that's set in the present.